Technology Keeps You Safe in Severe Weather

All it takes is a trip to the homepage and you’re quickly bombarded with imagery of severe weather, including tornadoes, dramatic lightning, damaging winds, and large hail.  Don’t believe me, have a look here:  This time of the year, severe weather is a common occurrence across the country.  Heck, just today, there were severe thunderstorm warnings back in my hometown just outside of Pittsburgh.

It’s important to be prepared for severe weather and one way to do that is with technology.  There’s a multitude of different apps and gadgets that can get you through when severe weather is imminent.

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The WX Factor: Hunting

The first Monday after Thanksgiving is a big day for avid outdoorsmen all over the place.  It’s when they head out into the woods to try to bag that prize buck.  It’s obvious that the weather impacts the turnout, but can the weather impact whether or not you get a deer?  Absolutely!  Read on to learn how weather impacts hunting…

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From One Extreme To Another

It's been dry.

It’s never ceases to amaze me how we can go from one side of the spectrum to the other around here when it comes to weather. It’ll be 90 one day and the next we’re struggling to hit 60 degrees. Or, it’ll be extremely wet for several months… I’m talking major flooding… and then we’re talking about needing rain a couple months later. That is the case right now. We need rain, or at least we will soon.

Take a look at the graphic to the right. This outlines some details about our current situation.

As of July 15th, we only had 0.33″ of rain at the Johnstown – Cambria County Airport.  That’s over 2 inches below normal.  Our last half-inch rainfall came on May 24th and the last time we had over an inch of rain in a single day was March 23rd.

So where are we so far for the month and year across the state?  Take a look at the graphics below.  The first one is the month-to-date graphic.  Notice that most counties across the state are 75% or more below normal.  That’s a sure sign that we’ll need some rain soon.

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Tornado Paparazzi

I ran across an post the other day in the Washington Post called ‘Our Tornado Voyeurism Problem‘ and it truly was eye-opening.

With all the tornadoes we’ve had lately across the country, it’s becoming more and more of a trend to see people wanting to catch these swirling monsters on video camera or cell phone.  We had an example of that right in our own backyard during the Westmoreland County tornado a couple of months ago.  The video, which even made it to Jimmy Kimmel Live, shows a kid videotaping the oncoming tornado as he talks to his mom on his phone.  Here’s the video:

This is reckless and could be deadly.  In the video you can actually see the funnel coming down.  At that point, shouldn’t you be heading to the basement or a safe place?

Andy Freedman from the Washington Post writes about what he calls the ‘YouTube Effect.’  He continues by talking about a documentary on the National Geographic Channel about the recent rash of tornadoes.

The documentary featured many of the viral videos, strung together with narration by actor Campbell Scott. Although this surely was not the producers’ intent, one thing became glaringly obvious by watching video after video of people recklessly ignoring tornado warnings and rushing to view tornadoes up close, while screaming phrases like “This is awesome!” and “I’ll never see anything like this again!” – this country has a growing tornado voyeurism problem, and it’s one which may lead many to learn the wrong lessons from the recent deadly scourge of twisters.

Call it the “YouTube Effect.” While they are sure to frighten some into taking more tornado precautions next time, these videos will very likely breed more amateur chasers who will run to the car when they hear tornado sirens, rather than heading for the basement.

Andy also found a great blog post by Chuck Doswell, who works for the NSSL (National Severe Storms Laboratory).  Chuck talks about the role that social media has played in storm chasing and how people somehow think they’re immune.

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Two Tornadoes and a Microphone (and a Waterspout)

Covering Friday's Storms

It’s time for a little math…

80 minutes of live coverage

+3 tornado warnings

+2 confirmed tornadoes

+1 waterspout


= 1 crazy night at work!

That was the setup for May 27, 2011.  I got in to work at around 2 PM that day and started working on my forecast.  The day looked like it had the potential to bring some severe weather and we were already under a Severe Thunderstorm Watch.

Around 3:30 or so, we popped our first Severe Thunderstorm Warning for a portion of Bedford and Somerset Counties.  With that, I broke in during some promo time we had allotted for the station.  I broke in three times.  Once was a minute and the other two were 30 seconds each.

Then it came to news time.

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What Are Contrails?

Contrails in the sky.

We had such nice weather last week and a few of the days were almost cloud-free.  Well, they were cloud-free except for some clouds that formed behind airplanes.

On a few of those days, we saw airplanes and a trail that was being left behind them.  These planes flew all around the Alleghenies and some people called in to our newsroom asking what they are spraying.  To clear things up, let me explain what contrails are.

Basically, the contrail is a trail of condensation that occurs behind an airplane.

According to the National Weather Service, here’s exactly how these are formed…

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Too Many Tornadoes

Too many tornadoes in April

It’s incredible just how many tornadoes we have had across the United States in the past month. I was doing some digging for final numbers, but they are not out yet. I did find some preliminary numbers through April 29th, so that’s pretty close.

Here’s what the Storm Prediction Center says on their storm reports page…

Through April 29th, there is a preliminary count of 871 tornadoes across the country. Even though they say that we shouldn’t compare preliminary numbers to actual numbers from past years, I’m going to anyway. (Look at me breaking the rules!)

Here we go:

April 2011 – 871+ tornadoes

April 2010 – 139 tornadoes

April 2009 – 226 tornadoes

April 2008 – 189 tornadoes

3-year average (not counting this year because it’s still preliminary) – 185 tornadoes for April

And get this…

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